Press release

More get unconditional support as Work Capability Assessment improvements continue

The percentage of people getting unconditional support through Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) has more than doubled since May 2010.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The percentage of people getting unconditional support through Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) has more than doubled since May 2010 as the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) continues to be reviewed and improved.

The latest figures for new claims to ESA published today show that overall 54% of people assessed were found to be able to do some form of work while 46% are eligible for the benefit.

Of those assessed, 26% were put in the Support Group, where they get unconditional support as they are too ill or disabled to work. This is more than double the figure from December 2008 to May 2010, when between 10-11% of people were being placed in the Support Group.

A further 20% of people were put in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG), meaning they are currently too ill or disabled to work and entitled to the benefit, but will be expected to take steps towards an eventual return to work.

Those found fit for work will be helped by Jobcentre Plus and initiatives such as the Work Programme to find work which is right for them.

The Work Capability Assessment is being continually reviewed and refined, through a series of annual independent reviews, with improvements resulting in a fairer and more accurate system.

Mark Hoban, Minister for Employment said:

We know that many people with disabilities or health conditions want to work and that the old Incapacity Benefit system simply wrote them off to a lifetime on benefits.

We are determined to carry on improving the assessment so those who are too unwell to work get the financial support they need, while those who can work get the help they need to get a job.

With annual independent reviews and by working with medical experts and charities, we have substantially improved the WCA process, which is resulting in a fairer system.

The figures also show that for June to August 2011, when people appealed a fit for work decision, 69% of decisions were upheld. This has also risen since May 2010, when 63% of decisions were upheld on appeal.

Outcomes of completed initial assessments for claims started from December 2011 to February 2012 are broken down as follows:

  • 46% of claimants were entitled to benefit. Within this:
  • 26% of claimants were assigned to the Support Group
  • 20% of claimants were assigned to the Work Related Activity Group
  • 54% of claimants were found fit for work and are not eligible for Employment and Support Allowance

Notes to Editors

  • Quarterly statistics ‘Employment and Support Allowance: Outcomes of Work Capability Assessments, Great Britain - new claims’ is available here:
  • Professor Harrington has completed the first two reviews of the WCA and is currently working on the third. The Government has accepted in principle all of Professor Harrington’s recommendations and is committed to ensuring the process is as fair and accurate as possible.

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Updates to this page

Published 23 October 2012